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Reading Like a Writer
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About the Author

Francine Prose is the author of fourteen books of fiction, including, most recently, A Changed Man and Blue Angel, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. She has taught literature and writing for over twenty years at major universities such as Harvard, Iowa, Columbia, Arizona, and the New School. She is a distinguished critic and essayist. Francine Prose lives in New York City.

Reviews

Adult/High School-Life is precious, and much of that preciousness lies in the details: the sights, the sounds, the scents we too often ignore in our busy lives. Prose makes a superb application of that concept for readers of fiction. To know how the great writers create their magic, one needs to engage in a close reading of the masters, for that is precisely what successful writers have done for thousands of years. College programs in creative writing and summer workshops serve a purpose, but they can never replace a careful reading of the likes of Austen, Dostoyevsky, Flaubert, Kafka, Salinger, Tolstoy, and Woolf. In this excellent guide, Prose explains exactly what she means by "close reading," drawing attention to the brick and mortar of outstanding narratives: words, sentences, paragraphs, character, dialogue, details, and more. In the process, she does no less than escort readers to a heightened level of appreciation of great literature. Many will want to go to the shelves to read again, or for the first time, the books she discusses. And to aid them, she thoughtfully adds a list at the end: "Books to Be Read Immediately."-Robert Saunderson, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

"a jewel of a companion...engrossing...and...daringly insightful."--Los Angeles Times
"Prose's little guide will motivate 'people who love books'...Like the great works of fiction, it's a wise and voluble companion."--New York Times Book Review
"The passages are...subtle and brilliant in their capture of human complexity...Prose is...a skilled...analyst of what makes them so."--San Francisco Chronicle
"Prose's guide to reading and writing belongs on every writer's bookshelf alongside E.M. Forster's Aspects of the Novel."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

The trick to writing, Prose writes, is reading-carefully, deliberately and slowly. While this might seem like a no-brainer, Prose (Blue Angel; A Changed Man) masterfully meditates on how quality reading informs great writing, which will warm the cold, jaded hearts of even the most frustrated, unappreciated and unpublished writers. Chapters treat the nuts and bolts of writing (words, sentences, paragraphs) as well as issues of craft (narration, character, dialogue), all of which Prose discusses using story or novel excerpts. This is where the book truly shines; Prose is remarkably egalitarian in choosing exemplars of fiction: David Gates, Denis Johnson, John le Carr? and ZZ Packer, for instance, are considered as seriously as Chekhov, Melville, Flaubert or Babel. Prose insists that "literature not only breaks the rules, but makes us realize that there are none," and urges writers to re-read the classics (Chekhov, especially) and view "reading as something that might move or delight you." Prose's guide to reading and writing belongs on every writer's bookshelf alongside E.M. Forster's Aspects of the Novel. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Prose, known for her novels (e.g., Blue Angel), as well as her nonfiction (e.g., Caravaggio: Painter of Miracles), presents a short volume that serves as literary criticism, as a writing guide, and as an ode to the value of careful reading. Prose devotes a chapter each to eight elements of writing: words, sentences, paragraphs, narration, character, dialog, details, and gesture. These chapters are framed by an opening piece that urges close reading as most productive for writers; a chapter devoted to Chekhov, particularly his short stories, as translated by Constance Garnett; and a closing chapter, "Reading for Courage." Throughout, Prose focuses on what makes great fiction, mixing personal narrative with plentiful quotations from her favored writers, including both the big names generally encountered in such books (Joyce, Woolf, Mansfield, Flannery O'Connor, Melville, Austen, Paul Bowles, and Raymond Carver) and writers like Tatyana Tolstaya, Paula Fox, and Rex Stout. As the title suggests, this book is likely to find its audience with readers who are also writers or who long to be. Those who simply "love books" but do not have interest in the excruciating process behind their creation will not find the same value here. As a result, this book may have a narrow audience but one that will find much to enjoy. Prose also includes a suggested reading list. Recommended for academic and large public libraries. Stacey Brownlie, Lititz P.L., PA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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